30 April 2018

Puddings

Twelve Yorkshire Puddings - like Jesus's disciples
When I was a boy, my mother made a traditional roast dinner for the family every Sunday afternoon. For the first course, she would take a massive Yorkshire pudding from the oven and divide it into six. Then we would sit at the dining table consuming our slices of pudding doused in meat gravy ahead of the main course - meat, mashed potatoes and two or three vegetables.

Shirley and I have never eaten our Sunday Yorkshire puddings that way. Instead, we make small puddings that we place on our main course plates. Since I retired from teaching, I have done most of the cooking and yesterday was no different.
Yorkshire puddings from above
I roasted a chicken and carrots. Additionally, I prepared green beans, mashed potatoes, onion gravy and a tray of small Yorkshire puddings. I never bother to measure Yorkshire pudding ingredients as the recipe is in my DNA. I could make them with my eyes closed.

There are several small tips that Yorkshire pudding cooks might share - to do with the thickness of the mixture, the heat of the oven, the fat or oil used and the timing. The amount of egg mixture included is also pretty significant.

Accompanying this blogpost you can see pictures of yesterday's Yorkshire puddings. We ate four of them and the other eight were popped in our freezer ready for another mealtime. Second time round they take just three or four minutes to  warm up in a hot oven.
The Yorkshire Pudding as Art

29 April 2018

Observation

Gipsyville Roundabout, Hull
I went down to the local pub late last night to drown my sorrows. Hull City had lost to Cardiff City  by two goals to nil yesterday afternoon.

Our local is not as pleasant as it used to be. Sometimes there's loud music with televisions blaring and the manager/landlord is a bit of an arsehole. For example, not long after I had sat down with my pint, he decided to perform one of his party tricks in the middle of the tap room. He was clearly inebriated.
Boothferry Road, Hull
Trying to show off to a bunch of chums in the corner, he balanced a full pint of cider on his head. But it didn't stay there long - approximately one second - before smashing on the floor sending glass, cider and ice everywhere. A lot of it ended up on Karl's jacket which had fallen from a stool. Karl was none too pleased.

It was a silly performance and very unfunny. I mean, in my way of thinking - a pub landlord's behaviour in public should be exemplary - setting good standards rather than destroying them. Soon he staggered up the staircase, heading back to the flat above while Sam and Kieran - the two young barmen were left to clean up the mess. As I say - what an arsehole!
Anlaby Road, Hull
In the afternoon, I  parked Clint at the "Park and Ride" car park in Hessle before catching a bus to the KCom Stadium near the centre of Hull. My friend Tony had posted me his season pass as he couldn't attend the last match of the season - so I went in his place.

While riding on the top deck of the bus I snapped some pictures of the west side of Hull - travelling along Hessle Road, Boothferry Road and Anlaby Road. Other passengers on the top deck must have been bemused but I wanted these pictures for the geogragh project that I have written about before in this humble Yorkshire blog.
Cream-coloured phone boxes on Anlaby Road, Hull

27 April 2018

Circularity

Yesterday, my silver friend Clint carried me beyond Doncaster. I was heading for the flat lands north of that historical South Yorkshire town. It is not an area I know well and in fact yesterday's planned walking route was all in virgin territory - though I didn't spot any virgins apart from the spring lambs shown in the picture above.
I parked in the sleepy village of Thorpe-in-Balne where there are several new houses of manorial proportions. They had wrought iron gates and CCTV warning signs. The old village must have been very small indeed, dominated by a moated manor house dating back to at least the twelfth century.

I set off and soon found an imposing highland cow guarding the public footpath. I had to nip over the adjacent wooden fence to avoid this horned creature with its ginger Beatles fringe. Then through the fields to the even smaller village of Trumfleet.
The landscape is criss-crossed with drainage channels and the area is vulnerable to flooding. Some of my trudging was on very quiet single track lanes rather than upon cross country paths. I diverted to Wrancarr Mill where an Alsatian in a pen barked at me like The Hound of the Baskervilles. Thank heavens for wire fencing.
Wrancarr Mill
My intended route was a big six or seven mile circle. I knew I would have to cross the main Doncaster to York railway line but that was okay because my map showed two public rights of way crossing the railway tracks near Thorpe Grange Farm.
However, when I got there I discovered that both crossing points had been officially rescinded and the gates were padlocked. Sugar! What was I to do? Retracing my steps would add four miles to my ramble. Instead, I found a place where I could climb over the fencing onto the railway track and then clamber over the other side to get onto the old farm track I had planned to follow.

The weather was delightful yesterday afternoon and it was uplifting to see this unknown area emerging from my ordnance survey map into interesting and visible reality. I was quite weary when Clint welcomed me back into the driver's seat before taking me homewards via the M18 motorway.
Gates to a grand house in Thorpe-in-Balne

26 April 2018

Contrast

I was up early this morning. Clint had a job to do. He was taking The Bosh! Boys to the BBC Radio Sheffield  studios in the centre of the city. With my guidance, Clint managed to get Ian and Henry there on time and I have just listened to them being interviewed live by a presenter called Toby Foster.

It went well and the lads came across as relaxed and humble - handling Toby's questions with confidence and ease. I had been expecting a smidgen of mockery in the carnivorous presenter's approach but in fact he was fine, showing particular interest in how social media has grown Bosh!

On Saturday, Ian and Henry were on the front cover of "The Yorkshire Post" weekend magazine and last night they were at Waterstones bookshop in Orchard Square in the centre of Sheffield. There was a question and answer session and they signed copies of the cookbook for the hundred people who had managed to acquire tickets for this event.
As I write this blogpost, Ian and Henry are on a train heading up to Leeds to be interviewed by veteran BBC TV presenter Harry Gration for tonight's edition  of "Look North" - our regional news programme. On Sunday they will be flying to New York.

And here's a special message to residents of America who visit this blog - it is now 99% certain that Ian and Henry will be on the "Today" show on Monday morning - April 30th. If you manage to see their appearance, please let me know how it went.

Meantime the Bosh! father continues to live a more ordinary, low key life without radio interviews or  requests to appear on magazine front covers or transatlantic flights. Today's South Yorkshire weather forecast is good enough for me to be considering another photographic walk in the countryside - especially as my troublesome right knee is pain-free at the moment.

25 April 2018

Admission

Senior blogger, Mr J.Gray of Flintshire in the principality of Wales, recently confessed to embarrassing high jinx when he was a younger man. It seems that when in drink, he developed the habit of purloining various items. He would wake up the next day and bleary-eyed focus in on his latest acquisitions which included a tea caddy, a set of silver spoons, a terracotta planter and dozens of daffodils.

This post reminded me of a time in western Ireland long ago. I was over visiting my late brother Paul. We had been out in the local villages for a "few" drinks and I had consumed far more than I was in the habit of drinking. 

It was an endless night and in the early hours of the morning we finished up in a hotel in Lisdoonvarna. Paul knew the owners but in any case he seemed to know everybody in County Clare and beyond. There was music, dancing and yet more drinking.

Around 3am, Paul decided to leave - going home to Josephine who would later become his wife. I was going to get a lift back to Kilfenora with Josephine's brother Donal.

Perhaps I fell asleep in the hotel lounge - I am not sure but when I came round I noticed a framed tourism poster on the wall - advertising the delights of western Ireland. Donal was eager to leave and for some inexplicable reason, I decided that I would have that framed poster as a souvenir. 

I took it down from the wall and made for the entrance but was followed into the street by the landlady and her ox of a husband. They apprehended me and angrily ushered me back into the hotel's breakfast room. 

I was then subjected to a tirade of abuse from the landlady - most of it focusing on the fact that I was English. My pathetic apologies probably wound her up all the more.

There was a big table in the room which I soon found myself dancing around. The landlady had whipped herself up into a murderous frenzy and had grabbed a carving knife. I wanted to fight back - perhaps to wrestle the knife from her hands but the gorilla she had married was standing there presiding over the confrontation and I knew that with one wrong move he would be joining in with the assault.

I remember shouting, "Please don't kill me! I'll pay for the poster! I am sorry! I'm really sorry!"

The man mountain decided to intervene. He held the harridan back and took the knife from her. Then they demanded my wallet which contained my driving licence, a credit card, a blank cheque and perhaps thirty Irish punts. I was led out into the street where Donal was waiting.

"What the **** happened?" he said.

We drove back to Kilfenora and mid-morning when it was light I explained to Paul what had occurred. He headed straight back to Lisdoonvarna and retrieved the wallet after giving the landlady a piece of his mind. Apparently, it was not the first time she had unleashed her crazy temper upon transgressing customers.

That night could have turned out so much worse. The idea of dancing round a breakfast table while being pursued by a wild Irish woman may seem funny but that was a sharp knife and she meant business. Thank heavens the husband was there to arbitrate and to rein her in. The moral of this story is never try to steal an Irish tourism poster from a bar in the early hours of the morning. It could go horribly wrong.

24 April 2018

Exploring

At Old Street tube station
There was a time when, very deliberately, I never took any photographs. Nowadays my camera is like a third eye, capturing images from the fascinating world around me, capturing Ordnance Survey squares too. You will not be surprised to learn that our recent trip to London was, for me, another great photo opportunity.
Statue of Amy Winehouse at Camden Market
On Friday, we had a late breakfast in the exclusive, members only, Shoreditch House. It was the morning after the night before as our beloved son reflected on Bosh!Fest. Friday was a beautiful jacket-free day.
On Primrose Hill
After breakfast we jumped in an Uber cab and headed for Primrose Hill through the grinding London traffic. Our driver was a lunatic from Mumbai who had clearly never heard of The Highway Code. There were U turns, wrong turns and failed attempts to mow down pedestrians but thankfully we made it to Primrose Hill with its unparalleled view towards central London. I had never been there before.
Reflections at Gasworks Park
Then it was on to Camden Market before following the tow path of  Regent's Canal all the way to King's Cross. It was so nice that Frances had managed to get a day off work and was able to join us on our metropolitan exploration. A family day out in this nation's buzzing capital. Selected pictures accompany this post
Loved ones on Primrose Hill
By Regent's Canal
"The Enterprise" pub in Camden

23 April 2018

Milestone

On Saturday morning, we visited Westminster Abbey. Afterwards, we strolled to Leicester Square and boarded a tube train on the Piccadilly Line, heading back up to Wood Green where Princess Pudding now lives with her consort. The carriage was pretty full but Shirley managed to bag herself a seat.

If you will pardon the expression, she was sandwiched between two young men. However, almost immediately one of them stood up to offer me his seat. This was a milestone moment in my life for never before have I, as an ageing man of sixty four, been offered a seat by a younger human being. 

The young man noticed my amusement and explained that in his "culture" it was the done thing to show respect for one's elders. A stop later he was able to sit down opposite me and we had a brief conversation.

I asked about his "culture" and he said he was from Senegal. We spoke about the weather there and how hot weather can make one lazy. He said that the best time to visit Senegal was in January and February when most days lacked the oppressive heat people endured in the long tropical summer. He also referred to the difficulties of sleeping in hot, airless rooms without air-conditioning.

What a fine young man he was. Polite and pleasant as his original kind gesture had shown. I shook his hand and wished him well. I guess we had broken the unwritten underground railway code - never converse with strangers. 

No doubt the young man  had come to England to seek a better future and despite the fact that he made me feel like an old fart when he offered me his seat, I still hope that he finds that better future and avoids being crushed by disillusionment and dead ends.

By the way, Senegal is situated on the west coast of North Africa. It has a population of some 15 million people with its capital city being Dakar. Once part of the French Empire, 92% of Senegal's people follow Islam. God knows why. Here is the translated first verse of the Senegalese national anthem:-
Sound, all of you, your Koras, 
Beat the drums, 
The red lion has roared,
The tamer of the bush with one leap has rushed forward
Scattering the gloom.
Light on our terrors,
Light on our hopes.
Arise, brothers, behold united Africa!
The flag of Senegal

22 April 2018

Report

Walking over London Bridge
with Tower Bridge beyond
Back from London now... The Bosh!Fest was a surreal experience. Shirley and I were given VIP passes to hang round our necks as fans and friends queued to get in a specially cordoned off section of Borough Market.

You might remember the place. It figured in the news on June 3rd last year when evil terrorists who had surged over London Bridge in a hired van screeched into the market intent on murder. Horror of horrors. But last Thursday night the scene was so different. Something good. Something joyous. Something to celebrate.

There was our Ian and Henry up on the stage, happily demonstrating Bosh! recipes. And there they were to the side of the stage having pictures taken with waiting acolytes. Shirley was bemused - "They are queuing to have their photos taken with our boy!" Crazy man!
Eight hundred people turned up to witness the official launch of the Bosh! cookbook. It happened in the evening of what had been a sun-blessed day. There was no thought of Brexit or Syria or Putin or Trump. You could forget all that stuff as the music played and I drank another beer in the cordoned off VIP area. There was a happy buzz in the air and the aroma of vegan cuisine.
The Bosh! Boys were in the middle of "The Sun" on Thursday. There was a three page spread yesterday in "The i" newspaper and they were on the front cover of "The Yorkshire Post" weekend magazine. Soon they will be guests on the "Today" programme in America and meantime the book has shot up to number three in the Amazon charts for all books - not just cookbooks.

Ian never went to university but Thursday night felt like a graduation ceremony and we were proud parents looking on as he collected his first class honours degree.

19 April 2018

Bosh!Fest

It's Thursday April 19th, a day that my family and I have been excitedly anticipating for quite a while. This is the day on which our son Ian's Bosh! cookbook is launched at an event in Borough Market , London called "Bosh!Fest". All being well, my trusty steed Silver Clint will be whisking Shirley and I down to the capital later this morning.

Here's our invitation...
"We’re delighted that you’ll be joining us to celebrate the publication of BOSH!, the debut cookbook from Ian Theasby and Henry Firth, at the first all-plant festival to be held at Borough Market!

BOSH! FEST takes place from 7- 11pm on Thursday,19th April at Borough Market’s Market Hall and Green Market.

The GUEST entrance/exit to the festival is in Market Hall, on Southwark Street. On arrival you’ll receive a Guest pass and a BOSH! goody bag.
We’ve got a full programme of talks and cookery demos lined up for you with special guests Anna Jones, Dr. Rupy Aujla and The Happy Pear, and some awesome DJs will be playing throughout the evening.

There will be plenty of delicious all-plant food and drinks to enjoy, with cocktails and soft drinks from Lemonaid, beer from Red Church Beer and food from Club Mexicana, Spice Box, and Young Vegans. There is one cashpoint within the festival perimeter and retailers will have card-readers, but please do bring cash if possible to avoid queues.

Don’t forget to share your BOSH! FEST experiences @boshtv @HQStories #boshfest #boshbook

Looking forward to seeing you at Borough Market this Thursday 19th April at 7:00pm!"

18 April 2018

Extinct

A list of animals that became extinct because of human beings, all now as dead as the fabled dodo....

Atlas wild ass
Aurochs
Baiji
Bali tiger
Barbary lion
Atlas bear
Big-eared hopping mouse
Caspian tiger on a postage
stamp from Azerbaijan 
Bluebuck
Bulldog rat
Bushwren
California grizzly bear
Cape lion
Caribbean monk seal
Carpathian wisent
Caspian tiger
Caucasian wisent
Cebu warty pig
Chadwick Beach cotton mouse
Chatham bellbird
Chatham fernbird
Dodo
Eastern elk
Falkland Islands wolf
Formosan clouded leopard
Saudi gazelle
Goff's pocket gopher
Great auk
Guam flying fox
Gull Island vole
Haast's eagle
Bubal hartebeest
Hemigrapsus estellinensis
Huia
Japanese sea lion
Madeiran scops owl
Martha - the last passenger pigeon in 1912
Mexican grizzly bear
Moa
New Zealand owlet-nightjar
Noronhomys
Northern Sumatran rhinoceros
Laughing owl
São Miguel scops owl
Carolina parakeet
Passenger pigeon
Piopio (bird)
Quagga
New Zealand quail
Rocky Mountain locust
San Martín Island woodrat
Schomburgk's deer
Sea mink
Small Mauritian flying fox
North Island snipe
South Island snipe
Dusky seaside sparrow
Steller's sea cow
Stout-legged wren
Syncaris pasadenae
Syrian wild ass
Tarpan
Thylacine
Wake Island rail
Western black rhinoceros
Lyall's wren

The list is not comprehensive and it grows with each passing year. Just look what we done.

17 April 2018

Drax

The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Drax
Parts of this Grade I listed church date back to the 12th century
On Saturday, in the village of Drax, two boys of about nine or ten were ambling along the opposite pavement as I drove slowly by. One of them made the famous and vulgar two-fingered salute in my direction, not realising that I was about to park Clint. When I opened the driver's door, the boys scooted off, perhaps imagining that they were about to be chased by a madman. Instead, it just made me chuckle.

Drax is a village with an ancient history. It once had a castle and an Augustinian priory. It sits in flatlands just south of The River Ouse and north of The River Aire. The landscape is crisscrossed with drains. Half a mile away on the opposite bank of the Ouse is Barmby-on-the Marsh where my family lived until 1952 - the year before I was born. There was no bridge to connect the two villages. Instead, a twelve mile round trip was required via Boothferry Bridge Lord knows what people did before that was built.
Drax Power Station
Seen from fifteen miles away in 2014
In the early 1970's something happened to really put Drax on the map and bring the old village's name to the nation's consciousness. A massive coal-fired power station was built on the edge of the place by the Central Electricity Generating Board. It has a generating capacity of 4000 megawats - the most productive power station in the nation and it looms over the landscape. You can see it from miles around.

I tootled round the area for an hour or so having never been to Drax before. With my curiosity salved it was time to continue with my journey over to Hull where I am sorry to say that in spite of dominating the game, The Tigers lost 0-1 to Sheffield Wednesday. Boo-hoo!
Drax Power Station
Seen from Drax Abbey Farm last Saturday

16 April 2018

Finished

                                                                                                                   Hover and click to enlarge

It's finished! I am talking about my football crowd picture. In fact it was completed a week ago. 

The idea for this picture wafted into my head a few years back but I only got round to starting it last June. I worked on it intermittently when I was home alone with nothing else to do. That's really why it took so long but in any case, I was in no rush.

I want to thank my real life friend Mick Greaves for remembering the idea I once shared with him. Occasionally, he would enquire if I had started the picture yet and this had the effect of spurring me on. I also want to thank my blogging friend Donna in Colorado who gave me the idea of using different shades of "payne's grey" to colour in the figures. Thanks also to Briony (Brenda) in Brighton, England and to Jennifer in South Carolina for showing genuine enthusiasm for the project and for asking to have cartoon images of themselves in the crowd.

Ever since I was a bored schoolboy frequently enduring lessons that failed to interest me, I have doodled. Usually the doodling came back to cartoon images of people's faces. And at the end of my teaching career, sitting in tedious meetings, I frequently found myself still doodling faces. Consequently, this crowd picture is a celebration of all that aimless drawing - at last it has come to something. Simultaneously, it is also a homage to The Tigers - Hull City A.F.C..
 Briony and Jennifer
 Friends Mike and Mick & Tony
 Son Ian and Daughter Frances
 Stew (Daughter's beau) and Shirley
 Leonardo da Yorkshire (Me)

15 April 2018

Heels

Foot binding happened in China for a thousand years - right up to the start of the twentieth century. Apparently, small arched feet were considered beautiful but the practice caused much pain and ultimately - disability. Foot binding was only practised on females from certain social strata. Thank heavens it has been resigned to history.

When it comes to footwear, my prime interest is comfort. I would never for a moment think of wearing high heels as they must surely be incredibly uncomfortable. And yet, here in the western world many women choose to wear outlandish high heels when they have evenings out and some even wear them for work. There is a shared sense that they are stylish and feminine. Some of the heels we see today are very high, narrow and sharp.

Linked with this, hundreds of women each year find themselves in hospital accident and emergency rooms with sprains, broken bones and dislocations  attributed directly to the wearing of high heels. Meanwhile there are still image-conscious businesses that insist that female reception staff and office workers wear high heels as part of their corporate "uniform".

I would be interested to hear what you think about high heels. My view is that they are a modern day echo of Chinese foot binding and that they are a cultural phenomenon in which mostly young women find themselves unconsciously trapped. Arguably, they are a continuing emblem of the subjugation of women and I applaud all women who refuse to subscribe to this ludicrous footwear fashion.

14 April 2018

Book

I just finishing reading a novel. It was "Reservoir 13" by Jon McGregor. My feelings about it are quite conflicted.

On the plus side, I liked the fact that it was set in my backyard - The Peak District. I also admired McGregor's close observations of nature from mating foxes to returning swallows and I liked the sense of a community evolving over a decade. The style of writing is uncomplicated.

A vital thread that runs through the novel concerns the disappearance of a teenage girl called Rebecca Shaw. There are echoed references  to her in every chapter. We are tantalised by possibilities. What did happen to her? Will we ever know?

I know that I am not the only reader who found it difficult to keep tabs on the various villagers who inhabit the novel. None of them ever receives a physical description and there is no dialogue. To me there was something of a cardboard cutout quality about them - they often lacked depth and genuine emotional investment. However, I was prepared to tolerate them because I was keen to find out what had happened to Rebecca Shaw.

The narrator is all-seeing. He sees the bats and details about footpaths, bedroom antics, reservoirs and the botany of the region but he refuses to reveal what happened to Rebecca Shaw. Of course, I accept that neat resolution is not always the duty of  a novelist. Sometimes an open, ambiguous ending is the most appropriate choice, leaving the reader to speculate and wonder. However, in this instance, I felt that I had been the victim of sustained teasing. Rebecca Shaw's life deserved a solution or at least a powerful hint about what had transpired thirteen years beforehand.

When interviewed by Alice O'Keeffe for "The Bookseller", Jon McGregor was asked if he had spent time observing badgers in the wild - perhaps staking out a sett - to which  he laughed, replying, "Um. No. The internet."

In the final analysis, I am glad I bothered to read "Reservoir 13" in spite of my misgivings about it. The language was carefully crafted. Arguably, it was trying to do something different - perhaps shaking up complacent notions about what a novel should be and what it should do...

“Her name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She'd been wearing a white hooded 
top with a navy-blue body-warmer. She would be twenty-three years old by 
now. She had been seen in the beech wood, climbing a tree. She had been 
seen at the railway station. She had been seen by the side of the road. She 
had been looked for, everywhere. She could have arranged to meet somebody, 
and been driven safely away.She could have fallen down a hole. She could 
have been hurt by her parents in some terrible mistake. She could 
have gone away because she'd chosen to, or because she had no choice. 
People still wanted to know.”

13 April 2018

Synonyms


Perhaps you are like me. When writing, I sometimes find myself wanting to use an alternative word to the one that first springs to mind. Perhaps the initial word has been used already or perhaps it is not helping to create the intended effect. I rack my brain trying to think of a different word.

The facility I am about to advertise is not available in "Blogger"  but it is available in "Word". I am sure that some of you out there have known about it for ages but I am equally sure that there will be many visitors who have not yet stumbled across it. It is very useful.

Let's say you have just typed a sentence. Let's say it is this one:-

The wind howled through the trees.

But a voice inside your head says you are not happy with all your word choices. You put your cursor over the word wind. Then you do a right click. You go down the little menu that has appeared  and you see the word "Synonyms". You go right of this and you find "breeze, airstream, gale, squall, gust, storm". You click on the alternative word you judge to be best and the word "wind" is automatically replaced.
Then you look at "howled" and "trees" in the same way, considering alternatives and you might also think about adjectives that could be inserted, till you finally come up with..

An arctic squall wailed through the skeletal saplings.

Okay, I know this is a slightly artificial OTT sentence and sometimes simplicity is preferable but I am just trying to promote the use of the "Synonyms" facility. It's there at your fingertips when using "Word" and I know that many computer users are not aware of it. It can save a lot of brain scratching as you try to come up with replacement words. It is simply a quick and potentially very helpful  aide memoire though naturally it also requires good judgement as you weigh up replacement auxiliary standby additional emergency other possibilities.